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Self-Advocacy Term Descriptions

Note: there are different legal definitions of disability – see the resources listed on the previous page to explore the definition of disability based on specific legislation


The opportunity for people with disabilities to use a service or product or participate in a program. For example, providing a wheelchair ramp and an automatic door for entry allows equal access to a public building.


Accommodations are changes to the setting, the timing, or the way in which information is arranged or presented in order to allow a person to complete a specific task without changing the task itself. Accommodations are intended to “level the playing field.” For example, a person with a learning disability may need a private space or extra time for testing.

Advocate (verb)

To speak up for one’s self or to “self-advocate.” Includes asking directly and specifically for what is needed. An advocate (noun) is one who speaks up on behalf of others.

Age of majority

Each state sets an age at which a person is considered to be an adult with all the legal rights and responsibilities of an adult. In most states the age of majority is 18.

Assistive technology

A device or service that helps people with disabilities participate more independently at school, work, or within their community. Assistive technology can include items such as screen readers, timers, adaptive keyboards, and communication devices.


A person has a disability if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that significantly affects an area of one’s life such as learning, communicating, caring for oneself, walking, thinking, or working.

Disability services or Access office

Colleges and other post-secondary education programs receiving federal funds will have an identified individual or an office where students with disabilities may request accommodations to provide equal access.


When an individual with a disability informs an appropriate person that they have a disability in order to request a needed accommodation or support.


Written proof of a disability from a qualified professional, such as a physician or psychologist. Documentation requirements vary, and will often specify how current the information must be.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

An education program developed by an IEP team to meet the specific needs of a student with a disability to have access and make progress. The program is documented in a written IEP plan.


Making choices and decisions about the goals for one’s own life. Taking action steps needed to reach the goals.

Transfer of rights

The legal rights of parents to make educational decisions, including refusing or agreeing to special education services, are given to the student when they become a legal adult.


The ongoing development and growth from being a child to becoming an adult. “Secondary transition” in the IEP refers to the way public schools and other agencies are required to provide planning as well as services and supports needed to prepare the student to live, learn and work in the community as an adult.